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Logging Companies Must Apply for Permits for Ditches and Culverts

Erosion from logged-over hillsides damages habitat for fish and other aquated species, silting in spawning beds and causing other problems. This is hardly news, but in 1976 the Environmental Protection Agency exempted timber operators from the section of the Clean Water Act that would otherwise have required them to get discharge permits for ditches and culverts that convey tainted water to streams. This in turn has led to massive damage throughout the country.

To rectify the situation, Earthjustice attorney Mike Lozeau, representing EPIC (the Environmental Protection Information Center of Garberville, California) filed suit against the Pacific Lumber Company and the EPA alleging that PL's logging operation in the watershed of Bear Creek is illegal because the company has no permits for discharging from its 170 or so ditches and culverts. Such illegal dischargers are liable for penalties that can run as high as $27,500 per culvert per day.

In October district court judge Marilyn Hall Patel of San Francisco ruled in favor of EPIC. Pacific Lumber must apply for permits, and the permits must protect the creek, already heavily damaged by previous logging. There is a long way to go before this case is fully resolved, but the potential for salubrious effect across the country is great.